4OYS: Bernalillo County office building used as dog shelter

Posted at: 11/21/2012 5:45 PM
Updated at: 11/21/2012 6:14 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

In early October, 4 On Your Side investigators made unannounced visits to the Bernalillo County Animal Control Administration building at 1136 Gatewood SW. On each occasion, 4 On Your Side found several dogs in small portable crates inside the garage area of the building. There were also some larger dogs held outside in an area where the dogs had no shelter to protect them from the elements. The building is a converted fire station. The garage bays were intended to house fire trucks, but they are now utilized for the department’s storage and to hold animals.

The practice of keeping animals at the office building seemed odd to 4 On Your Side investigators because the County has a longstanding contract with the City of Albuquerque. The contract allows the County to drop off animals it collects at one of the two city shelters on any day of the week. The City will then provide all food, veterinary care, and make all efforts to adopt the dog out.

At the Albuquerque animal shelter, animals taken in are immediately documented, photographed, scanned for microchips, and vaccinated before mixed in with the rest of the population. The shelter also has state of the art surgical suites and equipped for any kind of veterinary emergency.

"Is there ever a time that the shelter is not equipped to take in dogs or medically care for any animal that are here?” 4 On Your Side reporter Chris Ramirez asked City shelter director Barbara Bruin.

“No,” Bruin replied.

"Would you ever deny any animals?” Ramirez asked.

“No, we would not," replied Bruin. “We're here to take in homeless pets and the intergovernmental agreements are that we'll care for their pets."

4 On Your Side took the concern to Bernalillo County Animal Control Director Matthew Pepper.

"The only reasons animals would come here would be for a couple of reasons," Pepper said. "It would be if we had a likely owner for an animal or if we have a rescue partner willing to place an animal in a permanent home.”

But 4 On Your Side obtained photographs of dogs inside the county office building that showed obvious signs of medical distress. One photo showed a newborn puppy with several scratches on its face. Another showed a lactating female dog that had either just given birth to a litter or was soon about to.

In an interview, Pepper stated he couldn’t remember those two animals being there, but stated there had been turnover among his staff and any issues in the past are now corrected.

Pepper acknowledged that the building is not equipped to handle medical problems, staff do not vaccinate animals to prevent the spread of disease, and that the small crates are not ideal for long term confinement. Despite the facts, Pepper defended the practice of housing animals in the office building.

"We do our part to make sure we place these animals into appropriate homes."